The holiday season often means one thing to most clients: “avoiding weight gain” or “not losing the progress I’ve made.” As personal trainers, we see this differently, and usually from two perspectives. First, we want our clients to enjoy the holidays, their experiences, and to embrace the merriment that surrounds them. Second, we want to empower our clients to remain committed to their goals – whatever those may be.

How do we best position our clients for success and enjoyment during the holiday season?

Review these 6 strategies for success and implement what works for you and your clients.

6 Supportive Strategies For Holiday Season Success

  1. Help clients plan for high-risk situations. Before the holiday season hits, carve out time to review clients’ goals and discuss what situations they may encounter that could interrupt their commitment. Collaborate with clients to brainstorm ways to manage those situations. For example, if attending multiple parties with calorie-laden foods presents a concern, engage clients in a conversation about self-monitoring and strategies they can implement to avoid overindulgence and pressure from partygoers, family, and friends.
  2. Provide take-home workouts. The idea of movement during the holidays is not necessarily about structured exercise, but about an intentional commitment to move the body in ways the clients enjoy. I love to provide quick 20-minute workouts that clients can do with their family and friends. These workouts range/blog/identify-personal-training-goals-clients from restorative yoga, after-dinner dancing, or adventure walks. When I give clients their holiday gifts, I include suggested activities and movement sessions that can support them throughout the season.
  3. Create holiday social support forums or groups. We cannot forget that holidays come with additional stress, emotions, traveling, and family challenges. Consider creating holiday support groups through social media platforms, your own website or app platform, or a messenger option. Here, you can facilitate group check-ins, and offer clients an asynchronous outlet to share their wins and struggles.
  4. Have honest conversations about food fear and guilt. Thanks to diet culture, clients tend to experience guilt when enjoying meals that might be outside of the “norm” for them. Sometimes all a client needs is to engage in a conversation about what causes these feelings of guilt, what outcomes they fear, and how they can combat or dismiss fear related to food consumption. Help clients brainstorm ways to reframe their thinking patterns and address cognitive distortions that arise.
  5. Encourage boundaries. Some clients may struggle with overcoming peer pressure (or family pressure) to imbibe or consume foods they are not comfortable eating because of their commitments and goals. You can help clients craft boundary statements without having to make excuses for declining a beverage or food option. Sometimes practicing “No, thank you, I’m enjoying what I have right now” is the simplest way to decline.
  6. Give permission to enjoy food. Food is a source of joy and celebration. Clients need to hear that it’s okay to enjoy, it’s okay to celebrate, and it’s okay to take some time to breathe in the season that surrounds them. Doing so does not mean they are dismissing their goals, neglecting their commitment, or derailing their progress. Help your clients find harmony in the message of seasonal enjoyment and commitment to progress.

Preparing for a shift in routine is half the battle for clients. Invite clients to discuss their fears, their desires, and their intentions with you in honest and candid ways. You can collaborate effectively with clients to create solutions and identify supportive outlets they can rely on during the more chaotic moments of the holiday season.

Managing Stress During the Holidays

Every trainer should be talking to clients about how they manage their stress. Fitness and health go well beyond exercise. In fact, exercise alone can only mildly affect an individual’s fitness and health if other pillars of health such as sleep, stress management, and nutrition aren’t prioritized. I talk to clients in terms of pillars of health, sleep being the most important:

Sleep. If clients aren’t sleeping seven to eight hours per night, good luck getting them to lose weight and keep it off. Taheri and colleagues found those who slept five hours had higher levels of ghrelin (“the hunger hormone”) than those who slept eight hours (1).

43306299 - young woman with blanket sleeping at night in bed

 Stress Management. If clients have high stress and no management, good luck getting rid of the “pooch” on the client’s belly who eats “clean”, and works out five times a week. Some studies have shown an association between uncontrollable stress and abdominal fat distribution (2). Stress and anxiety affect our health in very tangible ways..

Nutrition. You can’t out-train a bad diet. You may think your personal training clients understand this, but don’t assume so. Have the discussion. Check-in with them or invite them to randomly log meals throughout the month and offer feedback.

and then…

Exercise. Now the body is prepared for exercise once all of the above is in check.

Stress Management Techniques / 30 Day Challenge

Be the personal trainer who cares about the person outside of the gym. Be the one whose love for health and fitness goes far beyond a paycheck. Be the trainer who is invested in their clients’ health outside of the gym and for the years to come down the road.  Be the trainer who’s getting to the root cause of a client’s issue.

Helping can be as simple as printing off this calendar and giving it to them as a 30-day challenge or just an idea of how to get the most out of their personal training sessions. Below the calendar are explanations of how to do each technique listed on the calendar. The main goal is to be doing something every day to manage stress. You and your client. They say, “If it is important, you do it every day.”



1. Diaphragmatic Breathing during Commute.   

Deep breathing can slow heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure, and aid in disengaging from distracting thoughts (3).

Today during all commutes, focus on inhaling through the nose, deep into the abdomen for at least six seconds then exhaling through the mouth for at least 6 seconds. The whole way. No cheating. Take note of how you feel when you get to your destination.

2. Affirmations/Mantras.  

“The medical establishment has been proving that the mind can heal the body for over 50 years,” says Dr. Lisa Rankin, an integrative medicine physician (4).

Read an affirmation/mantra out loud at some point today. Read it to some friends who are struggling with life. See how they feel afterward. Each week focus on a different affirmation. Below is some affirmations for the Root Chakra. For the other weeks, search for affirmations for the listed Chakra on the calendar.

I feel deeply rooted.

I am connected to my body.

I feel safe and secure.

Just like a tree or a star, I have a right to be here.

I stand for my values, for truth, and for justice.

I have what I need.

I am grounded, stable, and standing on my own two feet.

I nurture my body with healthy food, clean water, exercise, relaxation, and connection with nature.

I am open to possibilities.

I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me grow and transform.

I trust in the goodness of life.

I make choices that are healthy and good for me.

I trust myself.

I love life.

-Affirmations/Mantras provided via Chakra Anatomy (5)

3. Envisioning Color.  

Color is simply different wavelengths of energy received by roughly 100 million photoreceptors in the retina such as rods and cones (6).

Close your eyes. Imagine a ray of red light energy coming from your abdomen, out into the world. Imagine the red light energy projecting out your back, out of your feet, and out of the crown of your head. Imagine your arms out beside you and red light energy pouring out of your fingertips into the world, into the ground, spread over the entire land. Imagine yourself as a ball of bursting red light energy, exploding with projecting energy into the world.

Repeat with colors listed on the calendar on the corresponding days.

4. Essential Oils. 

essential oils

Research has confirmed the calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its lavender is inhaled (7).

Have your clients buy lavender and eucalyptus essential oils or give them to them for gifts, especially if they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your services. They can use it by putting 1-3 drops in the palm of their hand, rubbing them together, putting their hands to their face and taking a six-second inhale, removing their hands, exhaling for six seconds, and repeating twice for a total of three times.

5. Ground Yourself. 

Today when anyone comes to you with negative energy, imagine that energy coming out of them, into the trees around you, down the branch of the tree, into the shaft of the tree, into the roots of the tree, into the soil of the ground and eventually to the crust of the Earth where it meets positive energy again and creates life. Imagine that energy not even coming anywhere near you like you can’t absorb it even if you tried.

These are all little tools you now have to challenge your clients with and enhance your value as a fitness and health provider. This is all a little rock in a stream that hopefully creates a ripple effect we call global health and fitness.

Read about learning to deal with stressful clients here.


Encourage your clients to post the calendar on their Facebook page by sharing it on your Facebook page. Tell them to call out their friends who always complain about stress but don’t seem to be doing something about it. Have them have their friends participate in the challenge alongside them.

Cheers! And Happy Holidays!

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  1. Taheri, S., Ling, L., Austin, D., Young, T., and Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLOS Medicine. 1(3): e62. Retrieved from:
  2. Moyer, A., Rodin, J., Grilo, C., Cummings, N., Larson, L, and Rebuffe-Scive, M. (1994). Stews-Induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 2(3); 255-62. Retrieved from:
  3. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. (2016). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. Retrieved from:
  4. Rankin, Lissa. (2013). Scientific Proof that Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health. Mind Body Green. Retrieved from:
  5. (2016). Root Chakra – Maladhara 1st Chakra. Retrieved from: .
  6. Wolf, J. Kluender, K., Dennis, L., Bartoshuk, L., Herz, R., Klatzky, R., Lederman, S., and Merfeld, D. (2015). Sensation and Perception, Fourth Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.
  7. University of Maryland Medical Center. (2015). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. Lavender. Retrieved from:


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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at